“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Fun Day in Kindergarten

Well....so much for my last blog post on transitions....I did not expect this, but my daughter ended up having a really tough transition this year. All of her neighbourhood friends were put in one class, and she was put in another class. Her friends are very important to her so it made for a difficult start to the year. She also absolutely loved her teacher last year, so I think that made it even harder to get used to a new teacher this year. My husband's September at work is always crazy busy so he was unable to be around, and I ended up booking the first 2&1/2 weeks of school off so that I could be there to drop her off, pick her up, and generally just spend more time with her. I am grateful that I had that flexibility because it helped her out a lot.

But things always seem to work out, she seems ok now and I have been busy TOCing for the last couple of weeks, and so happy to be back at it! I missed out on some work opportunities, but after being a stay-at-home mom for so many years and not having any other family living nearby, my kids are very close to me, and are used to having a parent around when they need one, and well, they have to come first.

The last couple of weeks have been great, I've so enjoyed being back to work. So far I have been at 5 different schools in the district, and I've taught: Kindergarten, grade 5/6, grade 7, high school, and senior alternate school. At the high school I taught grades 8-12, including a couple of days of Foods, which I always enjoy. Next week so far I will be teaching grade 2, grade 9, and grade 12.

But I had such a funny day in the kindergarten class the other day that I thought I would write about some of the highlights...

The day started with centre time and all of the kids busily playing. Their teacher had warned them that I was coming in so that helped, and I was able to greet them all at the door and chat with them individually as they settled into their playtime. A nice way to start. There were a few tattles about calling each other poopy-heads and that sort of thing, but I can tell the teacher had been working hard with them on resolving conflict, they were great at using their cute little "I messages" and they were so quick to say sorry and move on. Adorable. But the highlight for me was when one of them told me that they had to go to the bathroom but they couldn't because there was a dolphin in the toilet. So I went to look, and sure enough there was a small plastic dolphin toy floating in the toilet. So I had no choice but to grab some paper towel and stick my hand right in there to take it out. Fun stuff! Unfortunately whoever dropped/put the toy in the toilet had forgotten to flush. Ugh. Thank goodness for hand sanitizer.

And then it was time to ring the tidy up bell. Well I had forgotten that tidying up takes a lot longer at the beginning of the year than it does later on, wow! So we went overtime a little. Then their first "job" after a story-time of Dr. Seuss's ABC book (which generated lots of giggles), was to cut out train cars with alphabet letters and glue them on construction paper in order. Well, I could not get around fast enough to help. Some of them had trouble cutting and writing their names on their papers, and most of them had trouble with putting the letters in order. Some of them simply did not want to do it. By the end of that activity, boy was I sweating.

The next activity was outside playtime. There were 17 of them and I just kept counting! They knew if I blew my whistle they were to come over to me, so that was helpful. It was a beautiful day and they burned off lots of energy. They still had a lot leftover though! Lol!

After I got them all back inside and they had a snack we did a Thanksgiving story and a colour by number turkey. And then it was playfirst lunch and eating period. The ladies on duty came in and I got to have a break. Then the principal came in to tell me there would be a fire drill this afternoon during their naptime. Great!

After lunch was show and tell, and then "quiet time" in which they have pillows and blankets that they bring to the gym along with a book of their choosing. Before we went I warned them about the fire drill, told them what to do, not to worry, etc, answered questions like "What is a fire drill?" since this would be their first one! I asked them to use the washroom if they needed to and got them all organized with their things and lined up. Then we walked to the gym and they all ran in screaming and pulled the mats off the wall and placed them around the gym. Now it was time to turn the lights low and get them quieted down for their mandatory rest time.

Amongst the giggles and whispering there were a few more that said had to use the washroom now, a few that took their shoes off, a few that looked like they might actually be asleep! And meanwhile I am looking at the clock waiting for the fire drill to happen, hoping that I will get them all out without any problems.

The fire drill went well, it turned out that everyone was back from the washroom (thank goodness), only one child had not put his shoes back on, only one was standing at the wrong door, and everyone else was walking towards me! Yay! We got out in plenty of time and I even had compliments from two other teachers about how smoothly I got them out. Whew!

We went back to the gym and it took me about 10 minutes to get the kids to gather their pillows, blankets and books, get the mats back up on the walls (no easy task!) and get them lined up to walk back to class. But we did it, and the rest of the day was pretty uneventful with another fun story, some math games, some music and movement (so cute!), and then I gave them a Thanksgiving colouring sheet and got them ready to go home. Overall a really fun and busy day. I was happy to see my couch when I got home that day, and I figured it was the perfect night to use a Groupon for pizza that I had been saving, instead of cooking dinner:)

Monday, 27 August 2012


As summer is wrapping up I am wondering what this next school year has in store for me. I can't believe how excited I am to get back at it! (Unlike my husband who had a few days of grumbling before he went back!) I look forward to spending the first week helping my own two kids get transitioned into their new school year, and since I work for such an awesome, flexible district, I've been able to book it off for that purpose. From the second week on I'll be all set to work as much as I can! I was very lucky last year in getting so many TOC days, and I'm hoping for the same this year.

Thinking about this reminded me that for anyone involved in education as a student or a teacher, this time of year is all about transitions. My transition this year should be painless, and my husband's too, as he is going back to the same school; my children should both have a fairly easy transition as well, they are both going back to the same school they've been at since grade 1, they're going back to the same school as each other, and they know they will have friends in their class. Neither of them are worried about which teacher they'll get this year either, which has not been the case for every year!

However, transition is tough, for some more than others. As educators we need to remind ourselves that many kids are at home feeling very nervous and uneasy at this time of year. Some kids even feel scared, terrified, sick to their stomachs. As teachers we really need to make an extra effort at this time of year to make students feel comfortable, safe, and cared for during this time of transition. That extra smile, reassuring words, or pat on the shoulder can make a huge difference for a child in making them feel more calm and safe.

As a TOC, when I get called in to teach the younger grades especially I know that I'm walking into a situation in which some kids will feel nervous or afraid. I am not their regular teacher and this can throw their whole day off. I make an extra effort to make them feel comfortable at least until I've gotten to know them a little. As I've mentioned before, one huge perk to TOCing in a small district is that you get to know so many of the students, so you are not walking in as a stranger very often. This is a perk for the students as well, they often already know me a little, which usually makes things calmer and happier, and wastes less time.

A good reminder for me to be patient with students is that my own daughter is somewhat afraid of having a TOC because she has had a few bad experiences with different TOCs that have gotten very frustrated with the class at times and yelled or punished, and even gotten upset with her and told her she wasn't listening because she didn't understand instructions. This type of situation is upsetting in itself, but can be even scarier for young children when it comes from a stranger as opposed to someone students trust and have a relationship with (ie their regular teacher).

Many of us as teachers will feel that nervous stomach as we head into our first day back. I think it's important to remember that many of our students will have a nervous stomach as well, and some will have been dreading this day, and that it is our job to make them feel as calm and happy as possible:)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Dot

I love to teach art lessons based on children's books. I had two art lessons to plan and teach a couple of weeks ago, one for a grade 5/6 class, and one for a grade 3 class. The lesson for the grade 5/6 class was more of a last minute emergency lesson when plans changed, so I needed something simple with materials that were easily accessible. During lunchtime I used my computer to look for ideas, and I decided on a fun and simple lesson based on the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds. I was able to find it in the school library and I did not need any other materials other than the students' own pencil crayons and some large square pieces of paper that I took a few minutes to cut from 11x17 sheets. The Dot is a wonderful book about believing in yourself and believing in your artwork. Here is a good synopsis. Peter Reynolds is passionate about inspiring kids to be creative and take risks and to feel proud of and confident in their artwork

I began the lesson by reading The Dot to the students, who started off by rolling their eyes (no surprise there lol), but I knew I could pull it off because I had TOCed in the class a few times before, so they trusted me because I had a relationship with them. As I predicted, once I started reading a couple of pages the room was silent and they were all engaged. I find that most kids this age don't like to admit they like to be read to, but they really do still love it. After I read the story I explained the assignment, which I found at this website: http://mrsbrownart.com/5th.htm. It was very simple and I like that it gave the students a lot of choice and little pressure. They were to create an image starting with only one dot on their paper. They could create their dot into whatever they wanted, just let their intuition guide them. I asked them to use the space (not too much blank space left) and to work neatly (not scribbling). This criteria was my own addition, and maybe I didn't need to say it, but it made things a little clearer for a couple of students who wanted to scribble something out quickly just to get it done. Then they were to sign their picture (as Vashti did in the book). Peter Reynolds believes that it's very important for kids to sign their work, as I saw here

For the assignment I asked students to use pencil crayons, crayons, or markers. Some started with pencil and others started right away with colour. While they were working on their creation, I used a projector to show them a short, animated youtube video of the story that I had also found when I looked up the lesson. The students enjoyed the animated version, enjoyed their freedom to draw whatever they wanted, and their dot pictures turned out wonderfully! I wish I had remembered to take pictures. The students had turned their dot into everything from a flower, to a face, to a dolphin, to a giraffe, to a skyscraper, to a nature scene...and some had turned their dot into a design with more dots, lines, and shapes, as shown in the example above that I showed them. They enjoyed the creative process, and almost all of the students were very proud of their end result. It was a great lesson and a wonderful book. When I got home I ordered it for my own collection and will keep it on hand in my TOC bag for an emergency art lesson. It's a great idea for a TOC lesson because the only materials needed are the book, paper, and crayons or pencil crayons, which the students usually have in their desks. 

When my book arrived in the mail I decided to adapt the same lesson for the grade 3 class I was planning an art lesson for. I had TOCed in this particular grade 3 class many times; the teacher sometimes asks me to plan a lesson or two because she knows that I don't mind and that I have fun with it. This time I found a frame to use here (on the last page) and I blew it up on the photocopier to make larger copies. The lesson and instuctions were exactly the same other than the grade 3's were to colour the frame (anyway they wanted) and cut it out. They enjoyed the story even more than the grade 5/6's and they loved the animated version as well. Their pictures turned out great too, but some students had trouble getting started. I actually think it's a better lesson to use with intermediate grades. The older students came up with some really amazing pictures starting with just a dot.

As you can tell, I think The Dot is a great book, I also read it to my own children and they loved it too. I found it listed in this list of 100 best children's books. I ordered the sequel, Ish and will be looking for some activites to use with Ish in the future... I say one can never own too many good books. :-)

Friday, 18 May 2012

Grade 6 Symmetry Lesson

One really nice thing about working in a small district is that you get to know so many of the students and staff. Last week I got booked for a grade 6 class ahead of time, so when I was in the school TOCing another day I was able to ask the teacher ahead of time if there was anything she wanted me to prepare for that day. She mentioned that they would be working on symmetry. She was heading into a meeting when I went by to see her so she didn't have much time to chat but I said I'd look for a good symmetry lesson. I knew I didn't have much in my files or books on symmetry, so I was excited to go to my computer and look for a new idea. I started with Pinterest but did not find much so I started looking on Teachers Pay Teachers, and found a free powerpoint that I thought was very good. So I downloaded it onto my macbook and packed it with me hoping I'd be able to use a projector. I knew they had some macs at the school so I thought it was very likely I'd be able to get the powerpoint to work. I did not have an adaptor for my mac at home (but I plan on buying one so that I'll be able to use my mac with any projector at any school). Luckily the school had a mac adaptor I was able to use, and the principal took time out of his busy day to hook it up. I cannot figure out how to put the powerpoint onto my blog, but this is where I found it: Symmetry Powerpoint. The powerpoint was basic and clear, and helped reinforce what students had already learned about symmetry.

The next thing I found was a Symmetry Battleship Game that I thought would be both fun and good practice for the students. After they watched the powerpoint, I handed out one copy of the game to each student and explained what they were to do. They were to start by drawing a symmetrical shape or pattern. I told them to colour in at least 10 squares to make their shape or pattern. Next they had to play battleship in partners, guessing each other's symmetrical shapes/designs. They had a lot of fun with this assignment and it was a great way to practice symmetry!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


On the last day of school before spring break I got called in for the afternoon, and the last block was a Social Justice 12 class. The lesson was about homophobia and teaching tolerance. When I arrived and looked over the lesson plan I was a little nervous because there was a lot of class discussion and no seatwork, which is not always easy for a TOC. Thankfully I had some time to prep...

After I took attendance and the students were settled down and finished with their, "Yah! A sub!" routine lol, I handed out the story they were to read, A Rose for Charlie. It's a terribly sad story about a young man who had to deal with severe intolerance and homophobia throughout his entire life, and it has a very sad ending. It took the students a few minutes to settle down (A TOC and the last block before their 2 week spring break ;)), but once they started reading the story you could hear a pin drop.

After the students were done reading I had them arrange themselves into groups. Their first task was to take some notes regarding the intolerance shown towards the main character, Charlie, and the different levels of prejudice seen in the story, and then to discuss in their group. Once they had some time to discuss within their groups, I asked each group to share their most important points as I wrote them all up on the whiteboard. Next they were to discuss the political impact of the criminals going without punishment, and after that, the different ways homophobia can be expressed in our society. Lastly they were to devise a list of ways we can try to stop the homophobia we see in our society.

With each section I had them discuss in their small groups then went around the room asking each group for contributions, and wrote them all up on the whiteboard. They came up with some great thoughts! I took a picture of the notes on the board with my iphone and emailed them to the teacher. Gotta love technology! This is what they came up with for ways we can stop homophobia in our society:

  • Stop saying offensive words.
  • Don't assume someone is gay based on looks or actions.
  • Mind your own business.
  • Stand up for what you think is right.
  • Teach children tolerance at a young age and that it's ok to be different.
  • Punish people for bullying/gay bashing.
  • Accept people for who they are.
  • Stop making offensive jokes.
  • Stick up for people.
  • Don't laugh at offensive jokes.

I was very pleased with the great discussions and how well the lesson went with such a touchy subject, especially considering it was the last block before spring break. It certainly doesn't always happen that way as I know from the last block before Easter break with some very hyper grade 8 boys! But I'll save that for another post... ;o)

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Rainbow Fish and Friendship

I taught in a grade 1 class a couple of weeks ago in which the teacher was away for 3 days. I knew about the assignment ahead of time and she let me do some planning since I've been in for her before. Fun! Their theme was friendship, and she had so many beautiful books about friendship for the kids to read and for me to read to them. One of them was Rainbow Fish to the Rescue, the follow up to The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.

On the third day I was there the kids had a block of art so I decided to try to tie some things together and do a bit of a Rainbow Fish day. I started by reading them Rainbow Fish to the Rescue, which they all seemed to LOVE! We then talked about friendship and what Rainbow Fish did to help a friend (distracted a shark so a little fish could get away). We talked about different things they have done to help a friend. I then had them do their writing on a photocopied sheet (with interlines) and a starter of: I helped a friend.... They were to finish the sentence and there was space for them to illustrate. Very cute and they had some great ideas!

I found a fish worksheet to help them practice their math facts, and a fish dot to dot for them to do when their work was finished. Then it was time for art. This is what we did and it turned out great: Rainbow Fish Craft. They all seemed to enjoy their crafting and they were excited with their end product of colourful fish! (I had photocopied the template onto card stock so they had no trouble cutting it out.) It was a really fun day for me, and I think for them too! And what better theme than "Friendship!"

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Social Media

Social Media: whether we like or not, it's a big part of our society, and it's here to stay. I've been a Facebook fan for a long time, but recently Facebook has been replaced for me with Twitter and Pinterest. Facebook usually gives me a good laugh, and I can keep up with what my friends are doing, but when it comes to Twitter and Pinterest, there's so much stuff I can USE. It's not so much of a waste of time. Not that keeping up with your friends' lives is a waste of time, but the time spent on Facebook goes by way too fast! It's the same with Twitter and Pinterest, you get into it, and the time just goes! But the difference is that usually you're learning something, whether it's reading an article, contemplating a quote, finding a new lesson or activity for the classroom, or even just finding a new recipe to try.

I have heard many educators refer to Twitter as "It's like Pro D every day." I completely agree with that! Twitter is different from Facebook in that people are usually posting useful information, not just what they had for dinner that night. I'm not saying that Facebook doesn't have a lot of useful things too, but for Twitter, depending on who you follow, each tweet is generally something informative. And you can surround yourself with like-minded people but also follow people who challenge your thinking. I also really enjoy the opportunities Twitter provides me with for establishing relationships and having conversations with amazing educators that in the past I would only be able to see at a pricey conference. I have also seen Twitter disagreements, but they always seem to be respectful. From my experiences with Twitter, people mostly just want to learn.

We as parents and teachers need to teach our kids to use social media responsibly. One way to teach that is to model using social media, and sharing with children the value of it from our experiences. We grew up in a generation without social media, so it makes sense that it's taking us awhile to figure out the etiquette. Of course for people who are generally private in their lives, they are private when using social media as well - there are lots of lurkers out there! But for people like me, who are open in life and say what we think, which can sometimes get us in trouble, we can be open online as well and that can sometimes get us into trouble too. We also need to forgive when people make mistakes with social media. We are all in this and learning together. I saw a tweet I liked the other day that said, "Teach your kids to ignore online insults." Social media is here and it's not going anywhere anytime soon! Use it! :)

To sum up my current thoughts about Social Media:

  1. Twitter rocks, if you are an educator that is not using it, you should start. Seriously, Pro D every day! 
  2. Don't let fear hold you back from using social media, it is here and it's becoming ingrained in our society, and will only get more so.
  3. Forgive people, we all make mistakes; we didn't grow up with social media; we are all learning and we are all in this together!
  4. Teach your kids about social media - how to use it for learning, how to use it responsibly, and the implications it has; they will catch on fast. 
  5. Use social media responsibly but don't be afraid to put yourself out there and state your opinion! Steve Jobs said: "Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again." 
Check out this video of Steve Jobs' vision of the world

And last but not least....I also LOVE these:  5 Dr. Seuss Quotes and their Social Media Lessons

Monday, 19 March 2012

Pinterest - Awesome for Educators

I started doing Pinterest a few months ago. It is very visual and lovely, I've heard it described as an electronic bulletin board. I starting pinning lots of recipes, ideas for the home, things I liked, etc. Then I started coming across teaching ideas, lots and lots of teaching ideas. I went to a teaching conference a few weeks ago and came home to an empty house (my family was away skiing for the weekend). Instead of watching my PVRed Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives etc., I started pinning and pinning. I found emergency substitute teaching plans, great teaching sites and blogs, assessment ideas, classroom game ideas, art, P.E., drama, science experiments...I have boards for pretty much every elementary subject, some divided into grade levels, plus boards for all of the different holidays. There are so many ways to integrate these holidays into students' learning, and it keeps them engaged. Also, in their free time (many) kids get excited to colour fancy hearts on Valentine's Day, leprechauns on St. Patrick's day, eggs at Easter time. It is fun and relaxing for them. I love holidays!! And I really love Pinterest! I highly recommend it for educators! I haven't had a chance to use many of the ideas yet, but I have all of these ideas ready to use for when I need them. Can't wait to try some of them! Check out my boards at: http://pinterest.com/karenll2/ If you haven't already, request an invite and then follow my boards and I'll follow you back:)

Sunday, 18 March 2012


I can't figure out how to add the "follow me" button to my blog page, but somehow it got added as a post. Oops! I love twitter! Both my husband and I have found so much value in following people on twitter. So much to learn and it's like professional development every day! :)

Why I love Teaching-On-Call

I love teaching-on-call for many reasons.
Here are 7 of them :)

1) It's never boring - I work in many different classrooms and schools, so it's a new adventure every day. I've had weeks where I was teaching Foods 12 one day, then grade 1 the next day. Rarely a dull moment!

2) I get to know many different people - I have met and also renewed relationships with so many different people (I worked in the same district prior to having kids and grew up there too). I love people:)

3) I learn something new every day! - I get to see firsthand so many great ideas from many different classrooms, schools, teachers, principals, students...

4) I get to try many new ideas - Did I mention that I'm addicted to pinterest, twitter, etc. I also have a large collection of educational books (I've spent a fortune at Amazon this year). I've had several longer term TOC assignments in which I get to do the planning! Fun!

5) I get to practice my classroom management skills on a daily basis - I have learned what works, and have definitely learned what doesn't. I still make lots of mistakes, and have much to learn, but I am proud of what I've learned already. The practice helps so much!

6) I don't have to make a decision yet - When I'm in primary I like that best, when I'm in intermediate I like that best, when I'm in high school I love that too (especially English class)! I've also loved teaching Foods, Planning, Avid, even Math 8... I was trained for K-8, student-taught in grade 5, and most of my past experiences are with intermediate grades. But I really do love it all! And eventually I want to get my Master's in Counselling.

7) It's flexible - I can take a day off when my kids need me, whether they are sick or have an appointment, or when they have a Christmas concert or field trip they want me to join them on. I also took a couple of days off to take the kids to Seattle to my brother's for U.S. Thanksgiving, which has become a tradition for us in the last few years. My hubby had to work, but I pulled the kids out of school for a couple of days to spend quality time with their cousins, and experience a big American Thanksiving. I also like getting called for half days. I still get to work but I also get to do either drop-off or pick-up for my kids, which makes them very happy. And when I get to do pick-up that usually means a playdate at our house:)

My Brand New Blog:)

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a long time and now I'm finally going to do it! I've been following my sister's kid blog, and my parents' travel blog; recently I've discovered some awesome teaching blogs to follow. Also I'm addicted to twitter and pinterest - can't believe how many great ideas are at my fingertips!

About me...I have been a stay-at-home mom for many years and this is my first year back at work. I'm a teacher-on-call and I'm truly loving it! My kids are 10 and 7, old enough that they don't need me around quite so much. I am married to a wonderful man, who just happens to be a workaholic, but he is also the best dad in the world and a great husband. He works as an administrator in sd33, where we live. I work in sd78, a small district close-by, and I've made myself available to teach K-12 at all schools in the district.

I am not new to technology but I'm new to blogging, please bear with me when I can't find the right words or if I'm annoying or boring etc.

Karen :o)